The Watch Steve Jobs Would Have Designed
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve looked at that title and thought ‘yikes, this is going to be controversial!’. And I can’t blame you for that. Although, let me start by making it very clear, that is not my aim. My inspiration to write this article spawned from a moment shared with my Nomos and my deep admiration for Steve Jobs – one of the greatest thinkers of our generation. The company he founded in his garage, went on to be the most valuable in the world and he was behind products that fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. And the best part? We didn’t even realise that we needed these things!
No company has such a loyal following. Steve Jobs liked to keep things simple. I love this. He deeply appreciated great design, but ultimately less was more. In that spirit, I will keep this simple. I think, if Steve Jobs were to have designed a watch, it would have looked like a Nomos. Not function like one, but LOOK like one. And here’s why.
I walked into our Revolution offices here in London last week to find a watch, on my desk (better than any birthday or Christmas for a watch geek like myself). The watch was from a brand I have long admired: Nomos – the Ahoi dive watch to be specific. Why is this important? Well, when I mentioned to Nomos that I’d love to cover the watch, I wasn’t quite sure what to write about it. Then it hit me. On a damp, cold Wednesday morning, I looked down at my wrist and then glanced at my Macbook Pro. A lightbulb went off as I realised that these two products could have been from the same company.
These two product share a triumphant attention to detail. We only need to look at their focus on typography and their celebration in simplicity and minimalism. After making this connection, I started to think, ‘the Apple watch wasn’t even designed by Jobs. I wonder, if HE had made a watch, would it have looked more like this Nomos than the Apple watch?’.
Now before I continue, there are a few things I have to clear up. No doubt Steve Jobs would have wanted a watch to have an element of technological innovation built in. I am sure he wouldn’t have gone for a fully in-house, mechanical movement like Nomos. However, for the sake of this article I am going to put this small matter to one side. Instead, my argument comes from a design and ethos perspective.
To build my case, it is important to consider what Jobs wore himself. Funnily enough, you may have heard about its sale. It was a humble, time only, black Seiko, which sold at heritage Auctions for $42,000 (the highest price ever paid for a Seiko). The watch had a smaller case size, in line with Nomos. Jobs deeply considered functional and discreet products to be superior, as do Nomos. And, let’s not forget where Nomos found inspiration.
Bauhaus, was an art school founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, famous for the approach to design that it taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. Founded with the idea of creating a “total” work of art in which all arts would eventually be brought together, the Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in art, modern design and Modernist architecture. The school also had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in graphic, interior and industrial design, as well as typography – and ultimately Nomos.
Jobs’ Seiko was round and not the rectangular shape we know the Apple watch to be. Jobs was fascinated by minimalism, he even wore identical black turtleneck jumpers and trainers every day. He deeply appreciated the Bauhaus movement. He always looked to reduce products to their simplest form – a reduction of the unnecessary. We see this at Nomos.
Jobs was obsessed with detail – product finishing, clicking sounds and smells all factored in. And he was also fascinated by typography, as is Nomos. In a speech he gave at Stanford, he said: “Ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography.” Typography that, as Jobs pointed out, Windows and every other operating system simply copied: “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward ten years later. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Arguably one of the greatest speeches ever given, the video can be seen here.
One final point, is that Nomos, like Jobs, has done a lot in its field in a relatively short period of time. Now don’t get me wrong, the iPhone changed the world as we know it. The Nomos Tangete didn’t, and it never will. But what Nomos has done is develop in-house movements within 10 years and in doing so achieving the Glashütte stamp of origin, meaning at least 50 per cent of the movement’s value has been added locally.
Diving deeper into the comparisons between Jobs and Nomos, I came to find that Jobs was a Buddhist, converting in 1974 on a trip to India. Buddhism became the basis for his aesthetic expectations, justifying his constant demands for nothing less than “perfection” in himself, in others and from the products he would create. As well as exacting this same level of painstaking perfectionism in its products, Nomos is based in Glashütte, a tiny German town near the Czech Republic border that is now a centre of horological excellence and that was founded by a Buddhist monk centuries ago.
I may get trolls from the interwebs hounding me for the rest of my days for what I’m about to say – but I honestly think if Steve Jobs had designed a watch, it would have been round, simple and closer to that of a Nomos aesthetic than the Apple watch.